Biosecurity: the cotton industry's armed guard
Biosecurity is the management of the risk of pests and diseases entering, emerging, establishing or spreading, in order to avoid production losses and new management and eradication costs.
Critically, biosecurity measures allow growers to preserve existing trade opportunities and provide evidence of Australia’s pest and animal disease status to support access to international markets.
Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to biosecurity. Previous changes in NSW and in QLD biosecurity legislation make the obligation to take reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise biosecurity much more explicit.
What do you need to know?
Defending your farm
Growers play a key role in protecting Australia's plant and livestock industries from pests and diseases by implementing sound biosecurity measures on-farm. Implementing strong biosecurity measures on your farm will help protect your enterprise and the broader industry from the introduction and spread of endemic and exotic insects, weeds and diseases.
If a new pest or disease becomes established on your farm, it will affect your business through increased costs (for monitoring, changes in production practice, additional chemical use and labour), reduced productivity (in yield and/or quality) or loss of markets. Early detection and immediate reporting increases the chance of effective and efficient eradication.
Key biosecurity targets
All farm personnel, consultants, contractors and visitors should be made aware of farm biosecurity requirements. Clear communication is critical to ensuring biosecurity plans operate effectively.
Instructions posted on strategically located signage are a useful tool to inform and remind farm workers and visitors about biosecurity protocols. All farm personnel, consultants, and contractors should be briefed on action to be taken in the event of identifying unusual pests or plant symptoms or a potential exotic pest, disease or weed.
Regular monitoring of crops for the presence of pests (eg. insects, mites, nematodes, pathogens (diseases) and weeds) or associated symptoms increases the likelihood of early detection of unwelcome intruders.
Ratoon and volunteer cotton:
Ratoon (regrowth/stub cotton) and volunteer (plants that have germinated and established unintentionally) cotton plants are a biosecurity risk. They harbour pests, carrying them from season to season and providing an inoculum source for early re-infection of the following year’s crop. They are also a potential point of establishment for new pest and disease outbreaks.
Destruction of ratoons and volunteers outside the field (on roadways, head ditches etc) may be a costly exercise, but the costs resulting from not dealing with them may be far greater.
Vehicles, machinery and equipment:
Vehicles and equipment such as harvesters, sprayers, seeders, balers, augers, field bins and tractors can carry soil and plant material containing pests, especially weeds, to other areas or other farms. While it is impractical to stop all traffic movement on and off the farm, the biosecurity risk can be reduced by diligently enforcing Come Clean Go Clean protocols.
So, what should you do on your farm?
- Monitor crops and fields regularly for signs of pests and disease, particularly any new or unusual insects, weed species or plant symptoms.
- If you spot anything unusual, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.
- Remove all cotton volunteers and ratoon plants from all cropping and no-cropping areas to reduce carryover of pests and diseases.
- Create a plan considering your farm’s biosecurity risks, and implement measures to manage risk, including signage and parking areas for all farm visitors, appropriate washdown facilities, and arrangements with suppliers/contractors to ensure crop inputs, machinery and equipment are ‘clean’ before they are brought on to the farm.
- Follow Come Clean Go Clean:
- Wash down vehicles. Park on a clean wash pad where contaminants can be trapped.
- Apply high pressure water to all surfaces to remove trash and mud, being sure to get into crevices.
- Apply decontaminant to all surfaces
- Rinse off decontaminant and clean down the wash pad
- Don’t forget to clean your boots and any tools you may bring into the field
For more information on biosecurity visit the myBMP Biosecurity module.
Where should you go for more information?
Sharna Holman - Technical Specialist, Disease, Volunteer and Ratoon Management
Ph: 0477 394 116
- Farm Biosecurity Manual for the Cotton Industry (Farm Biosecurity)
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Come Clean Go Clean
- CottonInfo case study: Come Clean Go Clean stops weed spread at St George
- Cotton Pest Management Guide
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Managing ratoons and volunteers
- Poster: Come Clean Go Clean
- Poster: Exotic Cotton Pests
- Cotton Symptoms Guide
- Pests and Beneficials in Australian Cotton Landscapes
- Farm Biosecurity Action Planner (Farm Biosecurity): tool to assess and address biosecurity risks on farm.